COVID-19: What are the “Stay at home” laws in Victoria?
As is the case nationwide, the Victorian government has directed all Victorians to stay at home where possible to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The laws that govern these restrictions in Victoria are contained within state legislation, chiefly the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act)and the accompanying Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 (the Regulations), which support the operation of the Act and provide a framework for business, councils, the Department of Health and Human Services as well as individuals to adhere to. The Regulations cover a range of measures for the purpose of preventing and responding to the spread of infectious diseases generally, such as COVID-19.
The Act contains provisions which concern public health emergencies arising out of situations like the present outbreak of COVID-19, including providing for the appointment of the Chief Health Officer (currently Professor Brett Sutton) who can exercise various powers conferred by the Act during such emergencies.
Victoria’s Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos, exercised her power under the Act to declare a State of Emergency in Victoria from 16 March 2020 until 11 May 2020 to manage the COVID-19, which has consequently granted the Chief Health Officer with additional emergency powers to help contain the spread of the virus. Pursuant to the Act, the Chief Health Officer is empowered to give directions such as the mandatory directions, which have forced the closure of business and other premises, as well as the implementation of social distancing measures – the “Stay at home” laws.
These “Stay at home” laws are contained within the Stay at Home Directions (No 4) given by Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease) pursuant to section 200(1)(b) and (d) of the Act (the Directions).
In our article, we discuss how everyday Australians in Victoria may be affected by those Directions to date.
Permitted Reasons for Leaving Premises
The Directions provide under Clause 5, Part 2, that a person must not leave the premises at which they ordinarily reside, other than for one of the reasons specified in:
- clause 6 (necessary goods or services);
- clause 7 (care or other compassionate reasons);
- clause 8 (work and education);
- clause 9 (exercise);
- clause 10 (other specified reasons).
These clauses provide specifically as below:
Clause 6 – Necessary Goods or Services
A person may leave their premises to obtain food or drink, goods and services for health or medical purposes as well as other necessary goods or services including (without limitation) those provided by:
- a financial institution;
- a government body or agency;
- a post office;
- a pharmacy;
- a hardware store;
- a petrol station;
- a pet store or veterinary clinic;
- a retail facility that is not prohibited from operating by the Restricted Activity Directions.
Consequently, any retail facility which sells or provides “necessary goods or services”, other than those which are explicitly prohibited from operating, is ostensibly still permitted to trade and have customers attend in person.
Other than the examples above, “necessary goods or services” are not specifically defined.
Clause 7 – Leaving premises for care and other compassionate reasons
A person is allowed to leave their premises:
- for a range of specified reasons in connection with the general care and support of children (where the person is a parent or guardian), including meeting shared parenting arrangements or to take the child to be minded so that the person can leave the premises for work or to obtain essential goods or services;
- to provide care and support for elderly or infirm relatives,
- to attend a funeral or wedding;
- to donate blood;
- to escape harm or the risk of harm, including family violence;
- to visit a person with whom they are in an intimate personal relationship;
Clause 8 – Leaving premises to attend work or education
A person is permitted to leave their premises to:
- attend work, or
- attend an educational institution; or
- do anything reasonably necessary to attend either of the above (such as taking a child to childcare, school or another person’s premises to be minded)
provided that it is not reasonably practicable for the person to work or obtain the educational services provided by the educational institution, from home.
Clause 9 – Leaving premises for exercise
A person may leave the premises to exercise, subject to maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres from all other persons and complying with the restrictions on gatherings in clause 11 (ie. a person can only exercise with 1 other person, unless the other people live at the same premises).
Clause 10 – leaving premises for other reasons
A person may leave their premises for other specified purposes, including:
- emergency purposes;
required by law, including without limitation, attending:
- a police station; or
- a court or other premises for purposes relating to the justice or law enforcement system;
- if the premises in which they ordinarily live are no longer available or suitable for them to live in;
- for the purpose of moving to new premises;
- to leave the state, if the person lives outside Victoria;
- if the person usually resides at more than one premises, to move between them;
- for the purposes of national security.
Clause 11 under Part 4 of the Directions specifically details the restrictions on gatherings, in addition to weddings and funerals.
Police have strong powers to enforce these directions and are able to issue ‘on the spot’ fines for contraventions, including up to $1,652 for individuals and up to $9,913 for businesses.
Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton has however recently stated at a press conference that he would personally review every single fine issued for contraventions of the Chief Health Officer’s directives and indicated that if they were not “properly issued or they don’t pass that common sense test, they will be withdrawn.”
How can DSA Law help?
 Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Directions from Deputy Chief Health officer (Communicable Disease) in accordance with emergency powers arising from declared state of emergency – Stay at Home Directions (No 4) (13 April 2020) Department of Health and Human Services Victoria <https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/202004/b4%20-%20stay%20at%20home%20direction%20%28no%204%29%20%28signed%29.pdf>
 A person is however permitted to freely move between ordinary places of residence if they have more than one, pursuant to subclause 5 of clause 5 and clause 10(1)(g).
 As defined in the Restricted Activity Directions (No 4), as “any facility that is used wholly or predominantly for the sale or hire of goods by retail; or the retail provision of services“.
 Subject to the requirements of Clause 11 of the Directions.
 “Security” being as defined by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth).
 ABC News, Victoria expands coronavirus testing criteria to be ‘widest in Australia’ (14 April 2020)ABC News <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-14/victoria-expands-coronavirus-testing-criteria/12146166>.